Wisconsin COVID-19 Cases Trend Down As State Confirms Teachers, Essential Workers Will Get Next Vaccines

Officials Urge Vigilance As More Transmissible COVID-19 Strands Spread In US

People waiting for vaccine
People wait in a socially distanced line to get their COVID-19 vaccinations at Gillette Stadium, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. Elise Amendola/AP Photo

The weekly rate of new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin is at a seasonal low, according to the latest data published by the state Department of Health Services. But health officials say that’s not a sign to stop taking the disease seriously.

DHS reported 1,301 new cases of the disease Tuesday, bringing the average for the past seven days to 1,545 daily cases.

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“That’s lower than it has been in months, and it is still far, far too high,” said DHS deputy secretary Julie Willems van Dijk. “Stay home, wear a mask, physically distance, wash your hands, and get tested if you have symptoms or have been exposed.”

One week ago, the seven-day average was 1,895 daily cases.

There were 54 new deaths from COVID-19 reported Tuesday. On Tuesday, 4,147 tested negative.

Of the people tested for COVID-19 over the past week, 20.1 percent were positive for the disease, according to DHS. That rate has been on the decline, and is at its lowest since early October.

The positivity rate is often read by public health officials as a measure of overall testing levels. A high rate could indicate that testing in the state is limited, and skewed toward those already flagged as potentially having COVID-19. A lower rate could indicate testing is more widespread. Changes in the test positivity rate can also speak to COVID-19’s spread, if the size and makeup of the testing pool stays consistent.

DHS also tracks the percentage of tests that are positive, instead of the percentage of people who get a positive result. The metric takes into account people who have been tested multiple times. The seven-day average for that number is 6.1 percent.

According to DHS, 846,300 doses of coronavirus vaccine have been allocated across Wisconsin as of Tuesday, an increase of 66,500 from a week ago. Currently, 362,505 doses of the vaccines have been administered, and 69,077 people have received both shots, completing the vaccination series.

A graph showing the daily number of vaccinations across the state has seen a steady increase in doses administered since the beginning of 2021 — although doses administered dip on weekends. Monday’s 14,098 doses lags behind last week’s daily doses, although doses administered tend to be lower on Mondays than on other weekdays. Preliminary data since Dec. 15 shows the number of vaccinations mostly increasing.

Teachers, grocery store employees, child care workers and other essential worker groups will be in the next to get vaccinated in Wisconsin.

“We want everyone who wants a vaccine in Wisconsin to get a vaccine, and in the future that will be a reality, but with our current federal allocation, this is not a reality today, so we need to prioritize,” said Willems Van Dijk.

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, there were 772 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Monday. A total of 23,883 people have been hospitalized because of the disease, or 4.5 percent of all positive cases.

The latest figures bring the overall total of positive cases in Wisconsin to 535,218, according to DHS. A total of 5,753 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 activity varies from county to county. The latest activity data from DHS, released Wednesday, showed Buffalo County with a “critically high” level of COVID-19 activity, while 60 counties were listed as having a “very high” level of activity and 11 counties had a “high” level of activity. The number of Wisconsin counties at a “critically high” level of COVID-19 activity has been decreasing. Wisconsin’s overall level is “very high.”

COVID-19 activity designations are based on the number of new cases per a county’s population over a 14-day period, as well as whether there’s an upward or downward trend in new cases.

As of Wednesday, all seven of Wisconsin’s regions had “very high” levels of activity and were seeing “shrinking” levels of COVID-19 activity, according to DHS.

Wisconsin’s daily testing capacity — based on the availability of test supplies and adequate staffing — has grown from 120 available lab tests in early March to 59,275 as of Tuesday. The number of actual people with new test results reported Tuesday was 5,448.

A total of 3,016,953 people have been tested over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 2,481,735 have tested negative.